News and Events

SU Project Team Builds Water System for Disaster Relief

Fighting Cholera in Haiti 

Marchand-Dessalines, Haiti 

In late October, SU alumnus Vance Warren (BSCE ’03) contacted civil and environmental  engineering Professor Phillip Thompson for advice on obtaining safe water. Warren was in Port Au Prince, Haiti (PAP) working with Medical Teams International and getting ready to travel to the northwest part of the country which had just been devastated by an outbreak of cholera. After reviewing the basics of solar disinfection and chlorine dosing, Professor Thompson asked Vance to be on the lookout for any medical clinics that might need access to safe water.

Within four days, Vance had met Dr. Jhonny Fequiere who is the Medical Director at the Claire Heureuse Clinic in Marchand-Dessalines located approximately 30-km north of the city of St. Marc. The clinic was near the heart of the outbreak and hundreds of deaths have since been reported there. Dr. Fequiere was very interested in having the clinic serve as a source of safe water for local residents, and he agreed that they could afford the $2 per day required for maintenance of a water treatment system similar to the ones installed at other clinics by SU’s Engineers Without Borders club in Thailand and Jamaica. They are also similar to the three systems sent to Haiti after the 2010 earthquake.

Within a week and with a touch of serendipity, a Rotary club from Fairfield, California donated the funding for the clinic’s water treatment system. One of the club’s members, Tara Dacus had attended Professor Thompson’s presentation at a Rotary International Conference in Bellevue, Washington in early October and was motivated to join his effort to provide every medical clinic in Haiti with access to safe water.

Students from EWB,  World Water Partners and the SU Engineering Project Center assembled and tested the water treatment system, and two days after Christmas, EWB’s fourth drinking water treatment system for Haiti began its voyage. The first stop will be Coconut Creek, Florida which is the home to Food For the Poor. FFP will guide the shipment through its established customs process in PAP. The system will be picked-up by local engineer Rick Ehlert and a group of students from Haiti Tec which is a vocational school for various trades including plumbing. In-country  transportation was donated by local business owner Michaelle Saint-Natus who along with Ehlert, the students and representatives from a PAP Rotary club will install the system in early 2011.

With the help of Seattle-based medical teams who have worked in Haiti, Professor Thompson is developing a list of clinics that need safe water. The goal is to install at least twelve systems over the next year. Each of the $6500 systems includes 2-years of replacement supplies and can be locally maintained. More about the system is located here. If you would like to support a clinic project, please contact Professor Thompson at 206.296.5521 or thompson@seattleu.edu.

The Project Center

Working as a faculty advisor on student projects helps me to expose my students to an entirely new range of skills that they will need when they become practitioners in their chosen fields. Project management, teamwork, communication, translating academic knowledge to reality are skills that set our students apart. The partnerships we’ve built with sponsoring organizations provide valuable professional connections for students and faculty alike.

- Teodora Rutar Shuman, Chair, Mechanical Engineering